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Capstone Projects

An Ecological History of the Albany Pine Bush, Albany NY

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 15:45
Abstract: Paleoecology allows us to look backward in time thousands of years to see the long-term ecological history of an area. The main focus was to conduct the first exploratory investigations of the wetland located in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP) and Stump Pond deposits and the first directly dated ecological history of the pine bush. Irregular fire regimes and land development have caused a massive loss to the pine bush. Between 1940 and 1990 the pine bush has experienced an 81% change in land cover. Despite this, the APBP is home to many rare and endangered species in need of habitat restoration. Three samples (APB1-A, APB1-C, & APB2) were collected from a wetland within the boundaries of the APBP and one sample (Stump-1) was collected from a nearby pond. Cores were analyzed for pollen assemblages to reconstruct the tree community. APB cores revealed that Pinus and Quercus pollen grains made up the majority of all pollen found from Present – 6600 years ago Stump-1 pollen assemblages were dominated by Pinus and Picea indicating that between 6600 and 10,600 years ago the ecosystem transformed into the pitch pine- scrub oak ecosystem we see today. This information can help the APBP justify future preservation and restoration work.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone Paper Full.docx
Authors: Skylar Murphy

Distribution and Abundance of Larval Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) in Lake St. Clair and the Lower St. Clair River, 2018

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 21:23
Abstract: Spatial and temporal dynamics of fish larvae play an important role in determining year-class strength due to variation in habitat quality and food resources that influence larval growth, development, and survival rates. Surveys conducted during the past decade in the St. Clair-Detroit River System have revealed a decline of yellow perch. Genetic and microchemistry analyses showed that these fish make a substantial contribution to the yellow perch stock in western Lake Erie. Our study examines the spatial and temporal distributions of larval yellow perch in Lake St. Clair and the lower St. Clair River to identify important spawning and nursery areas and other ecological factors influencing their early life history. We employed a lake-wide daytime sampling program in 2018 using paired bongo nets to sample pelagic larvae throughout 33 sample locations beginning in mid-March before yellow perch had hatched and continued through mid-July when larvae were absent from samples. Based on our spatial analysis results, Mitchell Bay and Anchor Bay appear as the primary regions for yellow perch spawning habitat and/or nursery grounds for larvae. It is difficult to conclude which factors are influencing the distribution of yellow perch the greatest, but submerged aquatic vegetation, water temperature and clarity likely influence yellow perch vital rates, based on our study. The results from this study give us a growing understanding of the ecological interactions underlying larval yellow perch and their habitat usage during their early life history.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Clara Lloyd, Robin DeBruyne, Taaja Tucker, Andrew Briggs, Jan-Michael Hessenauer, Todd Wills, Edward Roseman

Alumni Campground and the relationship with seasonal guests and wildlife

Tue, 12/17/2019 - 00:45
Abstract: For our capstone, we plan to focus on the wildlife and human interaction dynamics within Paul Smith’s College Alumni Campground. The objective of Owen’s section for capstone is too develop a ‘bear-awareness’ program for the Alumni Campground. Katie is looking into establishing a wildlife management plan of the campground correlating with the evidence of determining where there are patterns of travel within the campground of the local wildlife.
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Major: Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2019
File Attachments: Capstone Paper_3.docx
Authors: Owen Murray , Katie Reily

Lower St. Regis Lake Survey: A Comparative Study of Fish Population Structure and Function over Time

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:24
Abstract: Lake surveys are performed on bodies of water to provide a health analysis of fish populations over time. Lake surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways to attain specific data. Lower St. Regis Lake was surveyed to determine the fish community composition and to understand fish population traits. Using fyke nets placed at six predetermined locations for 24 hours, as well as fishing, we collected data for age, length (mm), weight (g), and parasites present. Data was analyzed in the lab using Excel to form graphs and tables to demonstrate our findings. Catch rates were lower compared to years before and comparing our data to New York State Department of Conservation data found that our length-at-age data was lower for the six-species sampled. Pumpkinseed and yellow perch were the only two species to have over twenty fish sampled. Decreased air temperatures brought in by a cold front during the week of our sampling may have been a reason for our lower number of fish caught. Mesh size is also a bias while using these nets as smaller fish can escape, and predatory fish can prey on smaller fish while in the net. Some species of fish such as black crappie may be more susceptible to capture due to its habit of associating with structure.
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Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Capstone_Final.docx
Authors: Deacon Chapin, Jared Chlus, Louis Daversa, Jon Herrman, Robert Visicaro

Minnow Abundance in Heron Marsh: Spatial Variation, the Status of the Non-Native Fathead Minnow, and Hybridized Redbelly and Finescale Dace

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 09:27
Abstract: Due to their distinct influence on surrounding ecosystems and food web dynamics, minnow populations have been monitored in Heron Marsh, in the northern Adirondacks in New York, since fall of 2012. This study documented the presence of species known to predate on minnows, the hybridization between redbelly dace (Chrosomus eos) and finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus), and the presence of the recently documented fathead minnow (Pimephales prometas). To survey piscivores, two fyke nets were set around the marsh for one trap night. The fishes were then identified and measured. The collection of predators is part of a preliminary study to document the presence of predator fish species within Heron Marsh. Minnow data was collected via minnow traps set at long term study sites and one new site. The traps were set over night and collected the following day. The minnows were identified and measured to the nearest mm. When analyzing the data collected in the field, the data from previous years was compared to this years data. The findings indicate that hybrids of redbelly and finescale dace can be observed only at sites where both parent species exist. This 2018 study was the first one to document hybrid species though they have been observed in past years. The status of the fathead minnow is not significantly different from findings from 2017 however, their populations are noticeably smaller than previous years. Predator composition was primarily brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and creek chub (Semtilus atromaculatus).
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
Authors: Sarah LaLumiere and Patrick Nicholson

A USE VERSUS AVAILABILITY DIET STUDY OF AGE-0 FISHES IN NEAR SHORE WOODY STRUCTURE

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:09
Abstract: In 2014, the need for an ecological restoration program began at Paul Smiths College in attempt to restore or improve the shoreline along Lower St. Regis Lake. When restoring a shoreline, one must look at what organisms are using the area and how they are doing it. Invertebrates and fishes play a large role in distinguishing problems or changes in an environment, so we sampled both to add useful knowledge to the restoration program. Specifically, we looked to see if fishes were selecting for specific invertebrates (food), or if they did not have a preference. We used a backpack electrofishing unit to sample young of the year fishes near shore along three 60-meter segments, and a 100-foot bag seine to collect fishes offshore along the same segments. Invertebrates were sampled along the same segments and was done so by picking up all coarse woody debris and brushing the pieces off with our hands into a sieve bucket. Woody debris too large to pick up were scraped underwater using a standard kick net. Invertebrates were identified to order level, and fish stomach contents were also identified to the order so that we could conduct a comparison. After using a Chi Square test, we found that according to our p-value (0.2796) fishes were not selecting against any individual taxonomic group. Smallmouth bass were also the dominant present species along nearshore woody debris which could either suggest a higher recruitment than other species, a preference of use by the smallmouth bass, or human introduced capturing bias. Although we can’t indefinitely say fishes were selecting for Dipterans, data shows that dipterans made up just 4.5% of the total invertebrate composition on CWD but made up 9% of the fishes’ stomach contents suggesting fishes may be selecting for them.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: CompletedCapstone.docx
Authors: Adrian Forbes, Alexander Frank, Matthew D Simpson

A Comparison of Terrestrial Invertebrate Communities among Impacted, Minimally Impacted, and Reference Sites: Implications for Shoreline Vegetation Restoration

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:19
Abstract: The problem that this study attempts to address is the possibility of terrestrial invertebrate communities being negatively impacted by man-made disturbances along shorelines. This is a relevant issue because terrestrial invertebrates play multiple key roles in an ecosystem such as pollinating and serve as a food source for both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. The objective of this study is to provide a preliminary observation of terrestrial invertebrate communities between impacted, minimally impacted, and reference conditions sites so that further research can be conducted and add another aspect to shoreline management and restoration decisions. The impacted and minimally impacted sites that were sampled were located along the shore of Lower Saint Regis Lake on Paul Smith’s College property. The reference condition site sampled in this study was located along the shore of Black Pond on Paul Smith’s College VIC property. Invertebrates were sampled using pitfall traps and sweep nets. The invertebrates were then identified by taxonomic family and preserved in vials of alcohol. The findings of this study may imply that there may be inverse relationship between insect populations and arachnid populations based on impact level. Due to seasonal conditions of the Adirondacks, the results of this study could have been influenced by weather conditions, so a similar study conducted during a different season may produce vastly different results. The information collected in this study can be used to determine shoreline restoration and management decisions in the future.
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Major: Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Final Capstone Report.docx
Authors: Ken Toepper, Isaac Stouffer, Quincie Grube

Homesteading for Beginners

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 14:51
Abstract: Homesteading isn’t just a movement, it’s a way of life. Our first research proposal was to create a guide to homesteading for beginners. Initial research showed there are countless types of homesteads and so we decided to research what homesteading is and the different ways you can homestead. Homesteading can be defined as a life of self sufficiency. But our research found that there can be many ways to achieve that goal.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy, Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2018
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Ron Fina
Erica Martin

Promoting ALT Awareness & Mission Objectives Through Interpretation on the Glenview Property

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 21:44
Abstract: The Adirondack Land Trust (ALT) purchased the Glenview property in October of 2016 for a discounted price of $98,000 in conjunction with the promise to preserve the scenic vista for which this property is well known. The 238-acre property located on NY State Route 86 is a popular roadside vista near Donnelly’s Ice Cream Stand that draws many visitors. The ALT not only wishes to preserve the scenic vista but several important features of the property. These include pollinator habitat, wetland ecosystems, and maple syrup production. It is believed that awareness of these important characteristics and the ALT can be increased through meaningful and relevant public engagement on the Glenview property. What follows is part of a larger plan for an interpretive nature center located on the site. This paper outlines what interpretation is, why interpretation is important, and how interpretation on the Glenview property can be used to promote the ALT mission objectives.
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Major: Recreation, Adventure Education and Leisure Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Josh Beuschlein

Riparian log gardens: examination of vascular plant communities and moss on logs in waterbodies

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 19:51
Abstract: Microsites can play a major part in facilitating plant diversity. Specific physical characteristics of microsites can create favorable conditions for certain species by isolating them from competition or protecting them from herbivory. Plant communities and woody debris can also facilitate the growth of other plants. I examined relationships between moss and vascular plants on log gardens in waterbodies to determine correlations between these organisms. I hypothesized that riparian log gardens, large woody debris in lakes and ponds supporting mats of terrestrial vegetation, serve as sites that may harbor rare species or have high plant species diversity. I also examined the relationship between bryophytes and plant communities based on the idea that bryophytes influence microsite characteristics. Knowing where rare species are harbored and what microsites encourage high diversity are important for preserving species. I surveyed plants on large woody debris in lakes and ponds in the northern Adirondacks and calculated the richness and diversity of the communities in relation to the presence of mosses. I found that logs that supported moss mats had more plants. The mean species richness of the riparian log gardens was 8.6 for all plants and 6.3 for herbaceous species. Some significant positive correlations were found for log area, log hardness, mat area, mat depth, and vascular plant diversity.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2017
Authors: David R. Lampman